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FATHER AND SONS                           41

of the province, where the Yangtse Gorges begin and where cities and
towns and temples on mountain-tops reminded them of the warriors
and^Taoist saints of long ago. The brothers went up to visit Shientu,
the "Fairies' City", where an ancient Taoist saint had lived before he
went up to heaven. One of the earliest poems by the young poet, about
a legendary white deer, a companion of the Taoist, already bore wit-
ness to the elevation of his spirit,

The unremitting wheels of time turn round,
And we to this terrestrial life are bound.
The fairy went to his celestial home
And left his deer upon the sainted mound.
The homeless deer now sadly gazed afar
At where, cloud-capped, the Elysian City lay.
I hear at night this creature of the forest
Come wandering and cry on river's bay.
While myriad pines are sighing in the wind,
So near the ancient Master's hallowed place!
Oh, where are you, night-crying deer? Alas!
Among the woods I cannot find a trace.

The Yangtse Gorges, majestic in their beauty and exciting in hazards
for the travellers, are a stretch of two hundred and twenty miles of the
Driver »where the torrents swirl in and out through the rocky precipices,
with hidden rocks beneath the water, requiring a great dexterity on the
part of the boatmen. The gorges annually claim their toll of ship-
wrecks and travellers' lives, for this is a big, deep river, and those who
sink are lost. But the gorges are also, in their majestic, awe-inspiring
beauty, unsurpassed anywhere in China and by very few places in
the world. They are also the reason why Szechuen has always been
considered practically a kingdom by itself, naturally protected by the
gigantic mountains on its eastern border and by these narrow gorges,
impenetrable by an enemy.

While going up the gorges was a strenuous task for the boatmen,
with perhaps sixty or seventy boat hands tugging a little junk against
the swift current by long ropes slung across their shoulders, the voyage
down was always more dangerous, the boat being carried forward by
the force of the current and guided only by the extreme skill of the
boatman at the rudder. This dangerous long stretch is known as the
Three Gorges: the Chutang Gorge and the Wu Gorge in Szechuen,
and the Shiling Gorge above Ichang in Hupeh. Each of these1 con-
sists of a series of dangerous rapids alternating with whirlpools and
torrents that pass between sharp cliffs rising several hundred feet high
straight from the water.